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Top ten tips for storage

2 August 2011

Adrian Cunnington, Head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, suggests some key issues to be thinking about ahead of your potato storage this autumn.

1. Planning

Good planning is critical to any storage situation. Think about matching stores to varieties, potential loading date, storage duration and any chemical use. Try to minimise costs by using your most efficient stores for the longest storage periods. Think about issues such as the risk of leakage into adjacent buildings if you are intending to use CIPC.

2. Hygiene

Cleaning a store before use is a fundamental requirement to rid the store of crop debris and dust which can otherwise provide a carry over for disease. Use a vacuum in preference to a brush as this is much more effective at spore removal. Wash down any equipment that has been used to handle rots.

3. Servicing

Ensure the stores are serviced before use to reduce the risk of a costly failure during the season. Pay particular attention to refrigeration equipment and make sure you are complying with the F-gas regulations; ask your specialist to confirm this. Make sure your temperature probes work and read accurately: you will be relying on them for your decision making.

4. Loading

Once loading is underway, aim to fill a store as quickly as possible and bring it under control through ventilation. Try to match the crop temperature to the ambient condition to minimise the risk of condensation.

5. Ventilation

It is essential to manage the store to keep the crop dry. Treat free moisture as the enemy! Ensure your store is configured to make the best possible use of the air available. For a store to function effectively, the air must be able to circulate without being impeded. Pallet slots and laterals need to be clear throughout and air has to have free access in and out. Remember air takes the path of least resistance; if this means it isn’t going through the crop, it won’t be doing any good.

6. Maintain even temperatures

A uniform temperature will minimise the risk of condensation and offer the best chance of keeping crop quality at its best for your market. Be prepared to deal with periods of cold or warm weather which might affect this. Keeping the temperature in the headspace close to that of the potatoes is also important to control sub-surface condensation in an uncovered crop. Heaters and/or roof fans are helpful for lowering the risk of condensation on the roof.

7. Sprout suppression

Be clear on your sprout suppression policy and be ready to act. With CIPC, make sure you don’t leave the first application too late and adhere to the usage limits for your sector. If you use ethylene, refer to your system supplier for detailed advice on timing and ethylene levels from start up.

8. Aeration

Potatoes are living and breathing so they need oxygen. Whilst we need to control the storage environment, we are not looking to deprive the crop of fresh air; we just want to provide it in a regulated way. This may be through regular flushing in a processing crop but in a refrigerated ware store, measures to introduce fresh air may be needed.

9. Sampling & QC

You should always be storing for a specific market, so it is important to sample periodically (every month or so) and run a QC check to make sure the crop is continuing to meet the market specification. If unforeseen changes are taking place you need to know to take corrective action before the crop is unsalable or your costs have exceeded your likely return.

10. Record keeping

Make sure you keep good records to be able to provide your market with the information they need. Record loading dates, temperatures and any treatments applied. From a legal perspective, the owner of the crop is responsible for any chemical applications and ensuring any limits are complied with. If you can, fit an electricity meter to the store so you can see how much it is costing you to run your store.

Further information

Storage advice 0800 02 82 111 or www.potato.org.uk/sbcsr
  
CIPC stewardship  www.potato.org.uk/cipc

PCL energy hub  www.potato.org.uk/events

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